This issue features personal messages from our Circle of Service Coordinators – Phil Jackson (outgoing) and Alan Krema (incoming). It also brings you news about a number of upcoming workshops and retreats: introductory and advanced, local and regional, in-person and online. There’s a reminder to save the date for our one-day Fall Workshop at Benedictine University on October 15, along with Insights from Dag Hammarskjöld, Contemplative Outreach, Maurice Nicoll, and Simone Campbell.
We’re happy to note that this is Spirit Journal’s first anniversary issue – our online newsletter was first published in May 2015! As always, we invite you to help us make Spirit Journal an open and interactive forum for Chicago-area contemplatives. Use the e-mail address at the end to send your ideas, contributions and feedback.
Reflections on Transition from Phil Jackson
I don’t know who to thank first, so I’ll thank the Trinity.
The God we believe in, the Trinity, is all about relationship, and my five years as Coordinator have been blessed by relationship. Thinking about the good things that have come about during these years, I want to sincerely thank our relationships to: the Spirit that palpably leads us; Father Thomas, who helped our chapter; all the Chapter members (that part of the Mystical Body of Christ) who make the growth real; the wonderful 20 or so members who served over time in the Chicago Circle of Service; the other nearby chapters that we’ve worked with; the many other volunteers and very special friends who gave critical support. I pray we will always be connected.
Servant-Leadership is a real thing. Saying “yes” as a first response, especially when it’s not your idea, and then letting the Spirit speak through other Servants, works. It has been transformative for me to see the Spirit, and the whole Trinity in action this way. By listening to the Spirit and the members, Contemplative Outreach of Chicago has doubled in number, more than quadrupled in large-event attendance (we had over 160 attendees for last year’s Fall Workshop), increased events and the number of Commissioned Presenters for Centering Prayer, created infrastructure, and we are more financially stable than ever.
I believe the best is yet to come. Alan Krema, with the existing Chicago Circle of Service, has both a solid support structure and exciting future plans. The Spirit continues to lead!
I’ll take some time to “Be” with God more, and to practice this life-changing method of Centering Prayer with gratitude. Let me extend to you the wish that Trappist Fr. William Meninger ends his notes with:
May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
Blessings, Phil Jackson
A Note of Gratitude from Alan Krema
I want to take this time, during our lovely spring of 2016, to offer my deepest bow of gratitude to Phil Jackson. Phil has written above that he is now stepping aside from his role as our Chapter Coordinator. I have known Phil from our involvement in Contemplative Outreach and various spiritual retreats since the late 1990s. We have become good friends and spiritual companions and I was infused with a great sense of alignment with the mission of Contemplative Outreach when Phil asked me to help his work with the Chicago Circle of Service for the past five years.
Phil has worked diligently to foster the work of the Spirit in our chapter. One of the principles of Contemplative Outreach states: “We acknowledge that any good accomplished by Contemplative Outreach is the work of the Holy Spirit.” Phil has embodied this principle as a model of humble leadership. Phil has encouraged others to assist and take roles of mission and ministry within our chapter.
As I begin my role as the new Coordinator, we have a vibrant and renewed chapter with many activities and outreach efforts to sustain and foster the growth of Centering Prayer and the contemplative dimension of life in our community. We owe much of the vibrancy of our chapter to Phil and wish him fulfillment in his journey forward.
I also wish to extend the same gratitude toward Mary Anne Jackson, who has worked in so many roles in our chapter along with Phil. Her welcoming spirit and ability to get things done have made our activities fruitful. Mary Anne provides a great example of welcoming all and finding a way to get things done with grace and humility.
Phil is now helping me prepare to step into the Coordinator role. He will take some time and space to renew and refresh the calling of the Spirit, and we anticipate he will be contributing to our chapter again in the future in new and fruitful ways. I look forward to continuing to work closely with both Phil and Mary Anne in the months and years to come.
Love and blessings, Alan Krema
Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop July 16 at Healing Gardens in St. Charles
If you have not already participated in an introductory workshop, it’s great way to begin or solidify a regular practice of Centering Prayer. The presenters are specially trained and commissioned in teaching this short course, which covers the essentials and conceptual background of the method.
After the first six-hour workshop on Saturday July 16, the program will continue for five-six weeks with 90-minute gatherings to pray, view and discuss a video presentation by Fr. Thomas Keating, and work to support an emerging daily practice of Centering Prayer. For more information, visit the Healing Gardens website. The website also provides information about the popular “Silent Saturdays” programs, offered on June 25, July 30, and September 24, and other contemplative activities at the beautiful Healing Gardens.
Introductory Wisdom School in Wisconsin June 22-25
Looking for a way to go deeper in your Centering Prayer practice? Longing to return to the roots of the Christian contemplative tradition? Drawn to the beauty and depth of the Christian mystics? Placing Our Mind in Our Heart: An Introductory Wisdom School will be offered again this summer at Holy Wisdom Monastery near Madison, Wisconsin.
Wisdom describes a lineage of spiritual knowledge and practice that is principally concerned with the alchemy of spiritual transformation. It is not about knowing more, but about knowing more deeply, and can be recognized by an alert, present-moment awareness and a compassionate intelligence.
The four-day retreat is designed around the Benedictine rhythm of ora et labora (prayer and work), opening our hearts through contemplative practice and mystical teachings from the well-springs of the Christian tradition. It will be led by Beth O’Brien, who is a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, and commissioned Centering Prayer teacher. Beth has been a direct student of Cynthia Bourgeault for many years. In 2014 she received Cynthia’s blessing to “carry forth the Wisdom lineage” and has been offering Wisdom Schools ever since.
More information and registration are at the Contemplative Presence website. There are still a few spaces left in the Wisdom Circle – and a few overnight rooms as well – you are encouraged to register soon if you’d like to attend.
Online Course Begins June 6: The Parables of Jesus, by Thomas Keating
Contemplative Outreach will soon kick off a four-week online course sharing Thomas Keating’s insights on the parables of Jesus. According to Fr. Thomas, “When rightly understood, the parables help us to see how extraordinary a wisdom teacher Jesus really was, and how revolutionary, in the best sense of the word, was the content of what he taught and to which he bore witness by his life and death.”
The course is based on teaching excerpts from Keating’s book, Meditations on the Parables of Jesus, which he recently picked as his “best book.” Participants will receive email teachings every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, including links to audio teachings by Fr. Keating, as well as opportunities to share and connect with others in an online Practice Circle.
For more information or to register, visit the national website of Contemplative Outreach. While you’re there, be sure to look around at the many other programs and services offered and, if you haven’t already, sign up for the free monthly national ebulletin.
Save the Date: Annual Fall One-Day Workshop Coming October 15!
Contemplative Outreach – Chicago’s annual fall one-day workshop offers a great opportunity to deepen your spiritual life and get to know others from around the Chicago region who follow a contemplative path. Please block out Saturday October 15 so that you can attend this year’s event, which will take place at Benedictine University in Lisle. The 2016 agenda is now under development and will be announced soon.
For everything that has been, thank You. For everything that will be, YES!
– Dag Hammarskjöld
Through the continuing practice of Centering Prayer, we experience a deepening commitment to the needs and rights of each member of the human family and an increasing respect for the interdependence of all creation.
– Contemplative Outreach (Theological Principle #12)
Ask yourselves this question: ‘Do I know?’ This is one of the most powerful questions you can ask yourselves if you do it sincerely. Notice how you continually judge others. Observe yourselves. You all have definite fixed ideas of what is right and what is wrong. All this belongs to the acquired psychology called Personality. Are you sure that you know? If you feel that you know then you cannot change: your knowing will prevent you from changing. The idea of metanoia (translated as repentance) is to change your knowing, to change your mind. The Gospels say that unless you repent you cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven; but the meaning is that unless you change your mind, you cannot change your level of being.
– Maurice Nicoll
Emancipation happens when our contemplative journey takes us beyond ourselves into care for all.
– Simone Campbell
Please write in to comment on or add to any of the items in this month’s newsletter. Let us know if you are aware of an upcoming event you think other contemplatives should know about, or send us an inspirational quote you’d like to share, or information about a book, website, podcast, or video you recommend. You are invited to contribute by emailing the newsletter editor at email@example.com.